How You Shape Culture and Business Outcomes Beyond You

By Josh Epperson

Tuesday, November 7th 2017

Beyond direct reports, who do you lead?

Leaders often fail to act on the awareness their behavior has on the strategic outcomes of their company as a whole. Whether you realize it or not, your leadership extends beyond your team to shape a collective Operative Narrative. Are you aware of this ripple effect your leadership has on shaping a top to bottom movement for or against your company’s strategy?

In Revitalizing Your Corporate Culture, Franklin Ashby writes about the importance of leaders’ ability to understand the affective domain. “Great leaders understand people — what causes them to act and react the way they do. They recognize the importance of being a motivating factor for people —appealing to the drives and the feelings of others.”

Unconscious and misguided affect permeates beyond your team. Your skepticism about a business’s growth during a town hall or discrediting a function’s value (even if accurate) during an extended leadership team meeting has a greater effect than you might imagine. Not to mention the hallway jokes or happy hour cynicism. The effect of your affect leads to a disengaged employee base — leaders who stay amongst your ranks but check out while doing so. For every hour they are disengaged, you can be confident those leaders are not moving your company agenda forward and worse still, they may be actively undermining it. Employee disengagement is not an abstract idea. In 2017, statistics indicate that 51% of the U.S. workforce is not engaged, a fact that costs organizations between $450-$550 billion dollars, annually.

Leaders must be aware of the company culture — norms — their leadership creates and reinforces. Culture is a statistically relevant lever when it comes to strategy execution and leadership plays a significant role in shaping it. You must understand the way your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors motivate other leaders to think, feel, and behave in similar ways. Consider that an indictment or exoneration, depending on the collective license your leadership encourages. Connecting the dots between a company’s strategy and the culture most likely to support those outcomes is mission critical.

Here are four questions to ask yourself about the role your leadership plays in creating or reinforcing an environment that supports your strategy:

  1. Are you clear on the behaviors that ensure and undermine your strategy?
  2. Are you known as a leader who exhibits mission critical leadership behaviors?
  3. Do you know what triggers your leadership to undermine mission critical behaviors?
  4. Do you make changes in your leadership based on that awareness?

Your effectiveness as a leader and success as a company, requires a resounding, “Yes” to all four questions. Navalent’s Leading Transformation in Organizations e-book goes deep on this topic. If you answered “No” to any of these questions you need to get reliable data from direct reports and stakeholders alike in one or most likely, two areas: 1) your emotional intelligence, and 2) your relational intelligence.

  • Emotional Intelligence is sometimes referred to as intrapersonal effectiveness, or one’s ability to understand his/her individual emotions and their impact on his/her behavior.
  • Relational Intelligence is sometimes referred to as interpersonal effectiveness or one’s ability to understand how their behavior impacts others.

The HAY Group’s Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) is one assessment designed to accurately gauge your effectiveness in these two areas. The inventory looks at 12 competencies across four quadrants: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social-Awareness, and Relationship Management. Findings help leaders answer the question, “Am I aware of myself and others and am I effective at regulating my leadership in those areas?”

From beginning to end, our work with leaders and organizations is grounded in data. Stakeholder interviews, archival business reviews, and assessments like the ESCI provide a multi-faceted look at leaders and the businesses they run. More and more, I find myself working with leaders up and down organizations who tout the significance of awareness and who even exhibit knowledge about themselves and others, but who fail to act on it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the following when leaders are faced with such a comprehensive storyline about their leadership: “Yeah, I’ve heard that before…I’ve heard that too.” Their response is twofold: 1) that confirms what I already know, and 2) we can move on to another topic. To which my response is simple, “So, what are you doing about it?” That’s where the Self-Management and Relationship Management competence comes into play.

Knowledge is power only to the extent you act on it. Talking about the way your leadership must change is different than acting on those changes. All of your stakeholders — and I do mean all — are looking for signals from you regarding what they should value, believe, and ultimately what they should model their leadership after. Yes, it’s true, your actions speak louder than words — they affect a collective approach to getting work done and realizing results.  

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